I spent a night at the worst-rated hotel in New York City, the Bowery Grand Hotel.
The room was the smallest and most modest I’ve stayed in, with a shared bathroom and few amenities.
It only cost $95 and I thought the location was convenient, but I’d choose a nicer hotel next time.
As a travel editor based in New York, I’m constantly on the hunt for hidden gems around the city — especially if they’re cheap.
When it comes to hotels, New York has options for everyone, from boutique favorites to globally-known brands.
There’s also a spread of budget-friendly hotels to attract backpackers and no-frills travelers. But I’ve learned over the years that while it’s great to save on a stay, cheap hotels are not always created equal. Saving on a nightly rate might mean sacrificing amenities like a private bathroom, complimentary breakfast, room service, and more.
So, I was curious what a stay would be like at one of the city’s cheapest hotels, the Bowery Grand Hotel, where room rates start at $53 per night, as of January 2023.
One of the cheapest hotels in the city is also its lowest-rated: The Bowery Grand Hotel, located in downtown Manhattan.
The Bowery Grand Hotel is a budget hotel, located at the intersection of Bowery Street and Broome Street in lower Manhattan, where three different neighborhoods meet: Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and Little Italy.
Since there isn’t one site that definitively ranks all NYC hotels, I based my research on Google Reviews. At 2.3 out of 5 stars awarded by 530 reviewers, as of Wednesday, the Bowery Grand is the lowest-rated among New York hotels with at least 120 reviews. The hotel had the same 2.3-star ranking when I booked my stay in December last year.
The hotel has air-conditioning — a plus if you’re staying in the summer — and 30 rooms, according to Expedia, across four floors. There are men-only shared dormitory rooms, private rooms with a double bed, and private rooms with a single bed. None of the rooms have private bathrooms and instead share communal bathrooms.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into my stay, and was a bit wary after reading some online reviews.
Before I arrived, reading reviews online made me a bit nervous. One reviewer who stayed at the hotel in November 2022 described the property as “absolutely a dump” that had “dirty bathrooms with no toilet paper.”
Other reviewers said they saw a “colony of drain flies”in the bathroom and described the rooms as “cage-like.”
Reading these reviews made me worried about how clean the property would be. I’ve stayed in hostels in the past, and am fine with no-frills lodgings, but I draw the line at dirty or unhygienic. Still, I wanted to experience the stay for myself.
I booked my reservation through Expedia for a Monday night in December, for a private single room with a shared bathroom. It cost $80 and $15 tax, so the total booking was $95.
I thought this cost was low compared to many other hotels in New York, especially considering that prices are typically expensive in December, according to US News, as it’s a busy tourist holiday season.
When I arrived at the hotel’s address, it took me a moment to find the entrance since scaffolding initially blocked my view of the hotel sign.
I rode the J train from Brooklyn into the Bowery Street station and walked two blocks south to the hotel’s address.
Standing across the street from the Bowery Grand, I saw the hotel’s sign and banner on the second floor. But I also saw that the ground floor of the building was a lighting shop, and I was initially confused about where to find the hotel’s entrance.
Then, I saw a paper sign reading “Private property, no trespassing” on a metal door to the left of the light shop. The paper was signed “Grand Hotel,” which made me think that this door must be the entrance.
I opened the door, and looked up to a two-story staircase.
After opening the metal door, I was met with a small entryway that led to a set of stairs. There was a door to the left marked “Fire Dept,” which I didn’t think was the entrance to the hotel, so I went up the stairs.
As I climbed the stairs, I still wasn’t entirely sure I was in the right place since I didn’t see signage anywhere that clearly indicated the Bowery Grand Hotel.
Walking up the stairs, I noticed that the tiles on the floor were weathered and dirty, and several were missing.
There were two flights of stairs, and no elevator or wheelchair-accessible option to get upstairs that I could see.
On the steps and stair landings, I saw dirt, dust bunnies, and stains on the floor and walls. Representatives for the Bowery Grand Hotel did not respond to Insider’s request for comment on the lack of cleanliness throughout the hotel.
When I reached the top of the staircase, I turned right into the lobby.
In the lobby, I walked up to a desk behind a half-window wall next to a few trash canisters, with no seating.
The lobby at the Bowery Grand Hotel was one room with a front desk hidden largely behind a half-glass wall, which I thought looked like many of the barrier guards I’ve seen in delis and cafes around New York.
I looked around and was surprised that the lobby didn’t have any seating, decor, or furniture, either, other than several trash bins. I’m used to seeing a lobby with a waiting area when I visit a hotel, even at budget hostels where I’ve stayed in the past.
I gave the clerk behind the counter my name, and he looked up my reservation.
The clerk told me there was $20 deposit required for my room key, and that the deposit would be returned to me when I checked out the next morning by 11 a.m.. I paid cash for the $20, and the hotel clerk printed my receipt and handed me the room key, which was a physical key on a small keychain.
He also unrolled and handed me about four feet of toilet paper to use for the shared bathrooms, and pointed out on the receipt I could find the free Wi-Fi network name and password.
The clerk pointed me down a narrow hallway to the left of the lobby where I’d find my room.
Given Bowery Grand’s budget prices, I thought there might be a gathering space or shared living room like I’ve seen at other thrifty hotels and hostel-like stays in the past, but there wasn’t one that I saw.
Since I didn’t see any other guests or a space to relax and mingle, I headed straight to my room.
My room was on the same floor as the lobby, to the left and down a narrow hallway.
The hallway lacked any art decoration and had minimal lighting.
The door to my room was unlocked, and I opened it to reveal my lodgings for the evening. It was much smaller than I expected.
I’d seen from reviews and photos online of the Bowery Grand that the rooms were modest and no-frills in terms of decor. But the photos I’d seen hadn’t prepared me for just how small the single room was.
The no-windows room was rectangular in shape, and there were just three pieces of furniture inside, including the bed. It reminded me of the sizing of Harry Potter’s closet room under the stairs, but less cozy. Given that the bed was six feet long, I would estimate the room to be around 10 feet wide, at most.
Besides the small twin bed, there was a white plastic trash can lined with a bag and a white side table.
The room was minimally decorated with just a twin bed on a metal bed frame, white sheets, and an extra blanket and hand towel.
At the foot of the bed was a white side table and a small plastic trash bin.
Upon further inspection, I realized that the white side table was an old filing cabinet.
The cabinet had a missing lower drawer, and it had been turned so the broken side faced the wall.
I didn’t plan on unpacking my small bag as I was only staying for one night, but I think I’d miss a storage option if I had a longer stay.
On the bed, I was provided with white sheets, one pillow in a white pillowcase, and a folded brown blanket and white towel.
The bed was already fitted with a white bottom sheet and the pillow with a pillowcase, but there was no top sheet. I was given a brown blanket folded on the bed, and a white hand towel.
The mattress felt soft and the metal bed frame squeaked slightly when I sat down. I felt a bit uneasy to notice that the sheets looked worn and stained, and the white hand towel also looked old and overused.
I set down my overnight bag and connected to the Wi-Fi on my phone. It was a strong connection — I played Spotify and YouTube without any delays or glitches.
A fan hung from the ceiling near the door, and there was a strip light on the wall.
I read on Expedia that the hotel had air conditioning, and inside my room, there was also a fan with a pull switch hanging from the ceiling near the door.
On the door-side of the room, a light switch connected to a cool-toned strip light near the top of the wall, which was the only light source inside the room.
A plastic toothbrush, toothpaste, and small bar of soap were waiting for me in the room.
The light switch was also where I found the only power outlet in the room. Balancing on it were a plastic toothbrush, a small toothpaste packet, and a small bar of soap.
I later realized, after going to the shared bathrooms down the hallway, that this soap was to be used as my personal hand soap.
I thought it was a nice gesture to be given these items by the hotel for free. In most hotels where I’ve stayed, there’s also typically been a free mini shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and body lotion, but not usually a toothbrush and paste.
I wanted to check out the communal bathroom, so I left my room and locked the door behind me.
I followed signs leading down the hallway away from the lobby, and looped around into a new hallway with several shared bathrooms.
Curving around, I saw the doors of the shared bathrooms. There were four bathrooms in total, each next to the other.
Later over the phone, a hotel employee told me that there are shared bathrooms on each floor of the hotel.
The first bathroom was marked “out of order,” so I entered the second door.
Inside, there was a toilet, sink, and walk-in shower.
I knew that the shared bathroom in one of New York’s cheapest hotels would likely be bare bones, but I was disappointed to see that the bathroom looked like it hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned in some time. It was also small, and had just enough room for one person to move around.
I also noticed that there was a paint bucket used as a trash can on the floor, and no mirror above the sink.
I brought the toilet paper the hotel clerk had given me, as there were no extra rolls in the bathroom. There also wasn’t any hand soap, a hand dryer, or drying towels, so I used the soap from my room and let my hands air-dry after using hand sanitizer I brought with me.
At least the water from the sink had good pressure and was hot, and I never had to wait in line to use the bathroom.
Opening the shower door, I saw the floor appeared to be stained and dirty.
The shower door didn’t have a handle, and instead had a rope tied through the missing handle hole to use to pull the door open.
Like the rest of the bathroom, the inside of the shower appeared to be dirty. I saw what looked like stains and dirt on the walls, and mildew on the grout around the edge of the floor.
I decided to skip my usual evening shower routine.
I left the hotel to explore the surrounding area, and found a variety of casual restaurants within a few blocks.
While the Wi-Fi was working well on my phone, it didn’t have as strong a connection on my laptop. So, I set out to find a cafe with seating and Wi-Fi to use my laptop before I was ready to settle in for the night.
As I walked along the streets surrounding the hotel, I noticed that they were filled with restaurants, cafes, and bakeries. There were several Chinese, Thai, and Taiwanese restaurants, as well as Chinese bakeries. I also walked by a fish market and two corner grocery stores with stands of fresh produce. All of these businesses were within a few minutes’ walk of the Bowery Grand, so I thought they’d be convenient to access if hotel guests were looking for a bite to eat nearby.
Just a few blocks away, I found a cafe called Granddaddy that served coffee and pastries, and sat down to catch up on some work. After, I took a quick walk to McNally Jackson bookstore to browse books before heading back to the hotel around 8 p.m.
When I got back to the hotel, the front-desk clerk flagged me down and offered a whole roll of toilet paper.
I thought it was generous of the clerk to give me a whole roll of toilet paper, out of the blue.
I went into a different shared bathroom on my same floor, and found that this one had a vanity mirror above the sink. This bathroom didn’t seem any cleaner than the first, however, and I still saw dirt and dust on the floor and in the shower stall.
I brushed my teeth quickly, and washed my hands with soap and water. As a contact lens wearer, I’m prone to eye infections, and didn’t feel comfortable taking out my lenses in the bathroom. So I returned to my room to use hand sanitizer before removing my contacts and makeup, and hoped I wouldn’t need to use the bathroom overnight.
Around 9:30 p.m., I turned off the light to get some sleep.
Back in my room, I listened to music on my phone, but there wasn’t much else to do but go to sleep.
I was surprised it wasn’t very loud inside my room, especially because the hotel is in a relatively busy area and the walls of my room seemed thin. I could hear one person coughing in a room down the hall, and what sounded like a washing machine perpetually running on the floor above. But I didn’t hear any street traffic or noise from outside, likely because my room was tucked into the center of the building without a window.
A hotel employee later told me over the phone that in the past, some street-facing rooms had windows, but now, those rooms aren’t available and none of the available rooms have windows. The employee didn’t specify what the street-facing rooms are used for now.
It was also a comfortable temperature in my room, neither too hot or too cold. I didn’t see a radiator or device to adjust the temperature, so I assumed the whole building had a central heating system that the hotel management adjusted.
But it was hard to relax because I didn’t feel totally comfortable or at ease in the tiny room. Luckily, though, I was tired after a long workday and eventually dozed off.
The next morning, I checked out at 8:30 a.m., and received back my $20 cash deposit.
I slept throughout the night, but woke up feeling a bit groggy and not as well-rested as I usually feel at home. I used the bathroom quickly and got dressed.
Check out time was 11 a.m., but I left around 8:30 a.m. to get to work.
In the end, my stay at the Bowery Grand was about as no-frills as I expected, and I could see why other past guests gave it a low ranking on Google.
Overall, I think the only pros of the Bowery Grand Hotel are its price and location.
While it was interesting to see what it was like to stay at New York City’s worst-rated hotel, I was disappointed by the Bowery Grand’s overall lack of cleanliness and won’t be back. I also think that at $95 a night, it’s overpriced for what you get, considering the only amenities are the free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, and travel-sized toiletries.
Still, the Bowery Grand does have a great central location that makes it convenient to get to other areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Read the original article on Insider
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